Are you a new home or business owner trying to design your landscape? An integral part of curb appeal and landscape design is selecting the right trees and turf combination! Selection, competition and special situations must all be considered when designing beautiful, long lasting landscapes. Trees and turf offer distinct personal, functional, and environmental benefits. The intended benefits of these plants may never be obtained, however, if potential incompatibilities are not addressed!!

Tree and Turf Conflicts 

  • Thinning grass under large shade trees
  • Large tree roots that hinder moving
  • Young trees that don’t grow
  • Tree trunks badly damaged by lawn mowers or string trimmers

What to consider when selecting trees and turf

Grass is generally a “sun-loving” plant.  With that being said, most grass species won’t do well in areas with less that 50 percent open sunlight.  For these sun loving varieties, select small woody plans that have open canopies. Trees with high canopies are also a great choice!

If you are looking to plant shade trees, maybe consider a different species of grass.  There are shade tolerant species that are being introduced and could be a great option when planting trees with denser canopies.

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Plants Compete for resources.

All plants require sunlight, water, and rooting space for growth. So will the trees and turf compete for nutrients? Will they restrict growth of nearby plants? Will the plants release chemicals into the soil?

These things also need to be taken into account when designing landscapes!

According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) 

While shading is the most obvious form of competition, roots also compete below ground for water, nutrients, and space. The majority of fine, water-absorbing tree and grass roots are in the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil. In this region, grass roots ordinarily occupy a much greater percentage of the soil volume than tree roots and absorb more of the available water and nutrients (especially around young trees). However, grass root density is often much lower in areas where trees were established first. In these situations, shading and other factors help to make tree roots more competitive.

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Competition is particularly important when introducing young new plants (seedlings, sodding, and transplanting) because they will need special treatment in order to become established. Extra water should always be applied to new transplants and seedlings as needed.

Maintaining It!

Once you’ve selected the perfect turf and tree combination, you have to maintain it! Trees and turf require different care practices! Watering, herbicides, and fertilizer should all be applied with care. Trees need on average 1 inch of rain every week or so! Herbicides can severely damage trees when misapplied! Make sure to read the herbicide damage to avoid damage.  And remember, Fertilizer applied to one plant will also be absorbed by the roots of a nearby plant. It can be a good thing, but excessive fertilization of either trees or turf can result in excessive above ground growth or reduced disease and pest resistance.